Alan Davies, GE Healthcare
Vscan pocket sized ultrasound could drive down healthcare costs
The University of Warwick, GE Healthcare, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire Trust (UHCW) and Coventry Council have joined forces to create ‘Warwick Healthcare Partnership’ (WHP) in an effort to seek strategies to combat some of the most important chronic diseases responsible for millions of deaths per year worldwide. The three-way consortium brings together expertise from academia, industry, medicine and the community to address key health problems of heart disease, neurology, and infant and maternal health that affect resource-poor communities whether in Coventry or Africa.
Professor Tim Jones, Pro-Vice Chancellor at the University of Warwick, said: “Problems like heart disease and high infant mortality are simply too complex and important for one organisation to tackle alone. That’s why by joining forces and sharing our expertise in this consortium, we hope to advance healthcare and patient treatments in a speedier, efficient and more effective way.”
Speaking before the launch event, Marc Barlow, Head of Strategic Marketing at GE Healthcare, stated: “From jet engines to power generation, financial services to plastics, and transportation to medical imaging, GE is dedicated to turning good ideas into technologies that make the world a better place. By bringing together world-class researchers and skilled practitioners, the Warwick Health Partnership will develop new innovative pathways to deliver healthcare for under-resourced populations across the globe”.
Although the Partnership was only officially launched at the end of May, work has been underway for some time; not just in the UK, but also in resource-poor countries such as Malawi and Tanzania.
Bringing healthymagination to Life
WHP is currently examining whether the use of GE Healthcare’s Vscan , a pocket-sized visualization tool for point-of-care imaging, in the primary care setting could help drive down healthcare costs and ultimately deliver better care for patients.
Dr. Alan Davies of GE Healthcare, one of the architects of the project commented: “This Partnership is closely aligned with GE’s healthymagination aims of providing better health for more people. In this case it’s about analyzing the needs of resource poor communities, and establishing sustainable programmes that can be driven and developed locally with continued support from the consortium.”
Launched in 2009, healthymagination is GE’s $6 billion global commitment to provide better health for more people by lowering costs and increasing access. GE has committed that by 2015 it will: invest $3 billion in research and development to launch at least 100 innovations that will help deliver better care to more people at lower cost; provide $2 billion in financing and $1 billion in technology to bring healthcare information technology to rural and underserved areas; reduce the cost of procedures that use GE technologies and services by 15 percent and develop products tailored to underserved regions of the world, and reach 100 million more people every year with services and technologies essential for health.
Reaching Under-Resourced Communities in Africa
Dr. Davies recently returned from sub-Saharan Africa, where the Warwick Health Partnership is managing a project aimed at evaluating the implementation of a structured education, leadership training and workforce development programme for maternal and perinatal survival in different communities in Malawi and Tanzania.
Maternal mortality and morbidity associated with pregnancy remain major challenges to improving health in Africa. Globally, six hundred thousand women die every year as a result of complications from pregnancy and childbirth, and most are preventable . Human resources and the effective service delivery of appropriate sustainable technologies have been identified as key areas that need support if this global iniquity in health is to be improved. The Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 of reducing maternal mortality and perinatal death can only be achieved by developing and evaluating innovative transferable and sustainable solutions through collaboration between African and International partnerships. 
A key element to the project will be local and international physicians providing continuing support and mentorship for Non-Physician Clinicians (NPCs) in the workplace using communications technology. Bringing together key European and African partners with GE Healthcare to address the major issues of enhancing a sustainable healthcare workforce should help to significantly reduce the loss of mothers and babies in Africa.
“The project is due to end in 2014, but we’re working with the respective governments to ensure the project is sustainable,” added Dr. Davies. “We are enabling the Malawians to establish their own courses. We’ve already received an £80,000 grant from the Malawian government to further develop the programme and eventually there will be people there full time. However, the local NPCs are the leaders of this, and they are the agents of change. Empowerment of the NPCs is at the heart of this programme.”
Looking forward to what’s next, Dr. Davies added: “Our work doesn’t stop, we want to undertake ground-breaking projects to help us address the needs of the under-served, under resourced communities, whether in Coventry, East London or Malawi. We want to deliver quality healthcare at the right time at the right price, and together we can do that”.